COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Local anti-violence non-profit Halt Violence has opened its doors on a new location on Columbus’ west side. The spot at 2360 W. Broad St. will be a three-year lease for the program to extend services from its 923 E. Broad St location.
“We aren’t alarmed by what we hear because it’s familiar to us. Although we don’t condone it, we understand it,” said Halt Violence founder Thell Robinson III.
Halt Violence uses a different approach to stopping street violence. The group doesn’t associate with the police, and it gives individuals and groups a safe place to sit and “squash the beef.” Robinson spent time in prison for his actions as a younger man, but now on the verge of 50, he is using his experience to gain trust and influence youth to stay out of violence.
“Teenagers, young adults, adults dying. But I’m still here,” said Robinson. He wants to help people in the community through his mentoring program, job placement services, mediating conflict, and hosting community events. He also wants to help people heal.
“Unprocessed grief that’s going on from all the violence,” he said. “Because hurt people hurt people. They haven’t talked about it, so they’re just carrying it around. That anger is just driving them.”
Robinson hires and employs what he calls street mentors to go out into the community and make connections, earn trust, and ultimately prevent violence. One of those mentors is Monique Kamara. She has worked with Halt Violence for less than two months but already feels like she’s making an impact.
“There’s young girls who are not able to navigate their emotions yet because no one is telling them how to regulate themselves yet, and no one is asking how you feel or what do you want to do,” Kamara said. “I step in and speak to young girls or young boys, whoever it is that may not have the resources or the abilities to navigate these difficult situations. I try and offer empathy and I try and offer understanding and make sure they recognize that I am here in their corner.”
She said it’s not easy at first, and youth will shut her down, but persistence and presence show them she’s on their side.
“You are allowed to be vulnerable with me and I understand where you’re coming from if you have not been listened to for so long,” Kamara said.
One parent who is benefiting from the mentoring program is Engja Ndiaye. Her son is 14 years old and will be entering high school next year.
“These are pivotal years for him; he needs someone he can talk to,” Ndiaye said. “Maybe he doesn’t want to talk to me. That’s when she reached out to Robinson and Halt Violence in December.
Her son Khadim was hesitant at first but said the one-on-one chats with Robinson are helping.
“I’ve learned to not respond to things how I usually respond to it,” he said. “Everybody thinks that ‘Oh it’ll be so hard, and you have to mush into your feelings’ and all that. But it’s really not that. We can talk while playing a game of chess, anything. So, it’s been enjoyable.”
Halt Violence is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.